I remember about a year ago traveling to Germany with my wife. We visited a small town called Heidelberg and strolled along the cobble-stoned street. As we were walking along, we decided to stop into a bakery to buy a snack.
Imagine the most delicious-looking cookies and pastries. I wanted to buy everything! And the smell was just AMAZING. Well, as we were placing our order, I heard an angry guy yelling at someone on the phone in the back. I didn’t know what he was saying, but I heard lots of “Nein!” which means “no” in German.
The lady who was checking us out apologized and said that the owner gets angry often. I wondered how someone who lives in such a beautiful town and runs a successful bakery shop could be so angry?
Well, it wasn’t until a few months later when I read the book, The eMyth Revisited by Michael Gerber, that I fully understood.
He says almost all small businesses fail not because of a lack of funds or dire circumstances, but because the owner just gets so fed up with feeling stuck and unable to grow that they eventually just quit.
It was then that I discovered The Success Pyramid, as I call it (don’t worry – it’s not a pyramid scheme!). The Success Pyramid outlines the three qualities all actors (and business owners) MUST possess if they want to become successful.
The Success Pyramid.
Let’s start from the bottom and work our way up.
Level 1: The Artist
This is the most crucial part of being a successful actor (or small business owner). If you’re not talented and don’t provide high quality service, you won’t get very far. The owner of that bakery was highly talented, so we can definitely classify him at least as Level 1.
The bottom of the pyramid forms its base, and without being a highly skilled Artist who’s great at what they do, no one can succeed (unless they’re born into it).
The most important part of acting is being natural and playing the character exactly as the director needs. The right training PLUS making sure you’re working within your brand and focusing on the characters you play best is crucial to becoming a great actor.
Out of all the actors I meet, I’d say only about 10% are truly great Artists – highly talented in a way that would make me as a filmmaker want to hire them.
Level 2: The Manager
Just as important as being a great Artist is being a fantastic Manager.
Not a manager of other actors, but a manager of yourself.
This means you need to be organized, focused, and strategic. It means you need to manage your finances, networking, and marketing. You need to ensure nothing – and I mean NOTHING – falls through the cracks.
Being a great Artist is extremely important but can only get you so far because without systems to ensure nothing gets missed, you’ll always have areas where things fall through the cracks. And people WILL notice.
If you can’t manage yourself and your career properly, you’ll find yourself stagnating at 2-3 acting jobs per month or less (unless you’re extremely lucky).
Being Level 2 means you’re professional in EVERYTHING you do. It involves big things like staying in regular contact with casting directors – and goes all the way down to the little things like using perfect grammar and punctuation in every email you send.
The little things do matter because they unconsciously tell people you truly care.
Out of all the great Artists I meet (10%), probably only 10% of those are great Managers. That means only 1 out of every 100 actors have both the Artist and Manager side covered.
The actors at this level work frequently. Many of them are full-time, meaning they don’t need a day job to cover their living expenses. Some of them are even earning more than $100k from their acting work each year.
Level 3: The Entrepreneur
Finally, we get to the top of The Success Pyramid, or Level 3. This level is called The Entrepreneur. I’d say only 1% of great Artists and Entrepreneurs reach Level 3, but it’s the area with the biggest rewards.
The Entrepreneur is the person in a business who takes risks. This is the person who has a bigger vision of what’s possible and is willing to invest in themselves and put their money, status, and reputation on the line for a cause greater than themselves.
The Entrepreneur is the person who believes in themselves enough to say, “I’m going to do it. I don’t care what people around me say or think. I believe in this and will find a way to make it happen no matter what.”
If you do the math, I’d guesstimate that only 1 out of every 10,000 actors reaches Level 3.
Of course, there are some actors who are ONLY Entrepreneurs – meaning they believe in themselves and take risks, but they’re neither talented NOR professional – and of course that’s not a recipe for success.
It’s only considered Level 3 when you combine all three aspects. Going out of order or skipping a level will keep you stuck.
To make it as a successful actor, you MUST first and foremost be highly talented.
Are you a great Artist? Are you technically skilled when it comes to acting? Are you natural and do you look and sound great? Are you working within your brand and clear on your type?
If so, you’re Level 1, and you’re well on your way. You’re ahead of 90% of other actors out there.
Now, how about the Manager? Are you systematic? Are you professional, reliable, and trustworthy? Do you get ALL things done that need to be done and do you see everything you start through to completion?
If you’ve got a handle on your schedule, finances, legal issues, marketing, networking, and all other aspects covered, then you’re officially Level 2, meaning you’re ahead of 99% of actors out there. You’re well on your way to becoming booked solid and becoming a full-time working actor.
Finally, are you the Entrepreneur? Do you believe in yourself? Are you willing to risk it all to make your dreams happen? Are you OK with asking others for help and unafraid that they might say “No?” Are you unafraid of what others will think? Are you going to keep at this and never give up, doing all you can to reach your biggest goals?
If so, you’re Level 3, and you’re ahead of 99.99% of actors. And if you keep it at, your lucky break WILL come sooner than you think.
That’s what it takes to reach the highest levels of success in your career. Someone who has worked their way up The Success Pyramid and paid their dues at each level.
Because once you climb to the top, there’s no telling how much you’ll achieve and how many people you’ll be able to influence in the world.
Are you up for the challenge?
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Martin Bentsen has used “outside the industry” hacks to help actors book more work since 2009. He’s helped over 6,000 actors grow their careers through his 1-1 consulting, digital courses, demo reel production and actor headshots.
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